Feb 14, 2018

Guiding the B2B Sales Conversation with Intentional Content Creation

Does your organization have a content marketing strategy in place? It’s no surprise if you don’t, as 70% of marketers lack a consistent content strategy of any kind.

Today, B2B buyers have unlimited access to information and brand choices which means organizations can no longer depend on sales alone to intrigue buyers.

Peter Caputa of PC4Media put it best when he said:

“With new technologies and more information, most prospects need a guide. They need someone who asks thoughtful questions, can design custom solutions, and helps prospects navigate the changes they need to make in order to be successful with any new product or service.”

Caputa is referring to Intentional Content Creation. But what does that mean?

Jeff Rackley of DemandMetric explained this concept of deliberate or intentional content marketing well when he said:

“The key for marketing and sales teams is to effectively execute a content marketing strategy. This begins with understanding the informational needs of the buyers during each stage of the purchase cycle. Next, it requires an investment in producing quality content that is perceived as helpful, not necessarily “sales oriented.” This content should ideally exist in a variety of formats, not just the venerable white paper. Finally, the content creation and publication process needs the support of an SEO strategy. The key to making this strategy work is to be easily found online.”

Content with a Purpose

Content is a word that few seem to be able to agree upon because it can mean different things to different people. Case in point, Advertising firm Publicis suffered a major loss recently when McDonald’s pulled their account because, despite having a team of copywriters and ad-execs, the “Mad Men” couldn’t agree on the term “Content”.

So, what does “Content Marketing Strategy” really mean?

From a B2B perspective, content is a multi-faceted element that is crafted to make sales more manageable by providing prospects with solutions to their most pressing obstacles. Content is designed to inform; the most quality form of content speaks to prospects and offers viable and unique solutions to common problems. Content should differentiate the organization and overcome objectives. The essential function of any content is that it can facilitate the close before salespeople even come into contact with the buyer.

No wonder it’s said that “Content is king.”

Content is presented in various formats such as a social media post or email, a web page, press release, blog post, or downloadable ebook. It could be a video or image, or an infographic representing years of diligent research.

According to Smart Insights, the best B2B content types include case studies, best practices, how-to guides, market trends, product features, and competitive comparisons, in that order. As such, high-level B2B case studies provide significant brand credibility because not only do they demonstrate that you provide a great product or service, but they showcase how it’s been implemented to impact others successfully.

Content must have a purpose because it’s designed to introduce the prospect to the brand if he or she is in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. In the same sense, content, when intentionally designed can drive the message of urgency home if the prospect is ready to be closed.

Forming a Content Strategy

Sales will only succeed if an organization is on the same page about their content process and strategy.   Companies must agree on what type of content will be beneficial to their marketing goals. Once the type of content and the purpose behind it is clear and agreed upon, it’s time to invest in and determine the format in which it will be delivered.

When Content Doesn’t Hit the Mark

With 50% of sales teams missing their quotas and a similar amount lacking strategies, it’s clear something needs to change. The solution is to get with the times; the sales playbooks of the past will no longer cut it.

As Peter Caputa put it, “Most sales organizations are running the transactional sales playbooks invented in the early part of the 20th century. They’re just using modern technology to interrupt you more and pitch you harder and sooner, which makes it even more of a turn off for prospects.”

Today, you need to harness current marketing strategies and cutting-edge technology to deliver content that is desperately needed.

Marketing Alignment Delivers Content with Intent

When sales can provide valuable field input to marketing, any content that is created and distributed as a result of those conversations will be more likely to hit the mark. This means that marketing and sales need to learn to work together. We’re talking perfect sales and marketing alignment.

Marketer Sujan Patel of WebProfits assists sales by listening in on sales calls while looking for friction points and objections. He then crafts content leveraging those insights that sales can then use in the field.

How to Align Marketing and Sales to Produce Quality Content

Regular Meetings: Sales and marketing should become quite familiar with each other as they work closely to make one another successful. Regular meetings, discussions, and even role-playing scenarios should be mandatory. Only when these two departments mesh can quality and targeted content be produced.

Update the Buyer Persona: All information from these meetings should be checked against the current version of the “Buyer Persona.” If the persona needs to be updated or changed in any way, this is the time to make that alteration happen before any content is created. For specific content can only be delivered accurately when you know who you’re marketing to.

A Common Language: Marketing and sales should agree on the words and tone to use, as well as the media that will resonate most with the audience. This information should originate from conversations salespeople have had with prospects and customers in the field, with marketing assisting through content-creation best practices.

Tailored for Channels: Content delivered via email won’t be the same as content that’s presented in an ebook, infographic, or Instagram post. The message may be the same, but the format must fit the medium. The channels used and method of distribution should be discussed before any content is created.

Content Creation: The above talks will help marketing develop blogs, whitepapers, emails, social posts, and ebooks that resonate with the ability to sway even the most stubborn buyer. Just don’t forget the case studies. Incidentally, case studies seem to influence B2B buyers the most, with 78% accessing this format type when researching purchases.

How Much Content is Enough?

Before even engaging with a salesperson, 47% of buyers consume 3 to 5 pieces of content. That means you should have enough content to help the decision maker commit. How many you need is subjective, and only proper testing can reveal the answer.

How Often Should You Create Content?

On average, 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day, but that doesn’t mean that you need to follow suit. Get it out of your head that quantity is the order of the day and remind yourself that quality is far more crucial. Over half of B2B marketers say they will increase their content marketing spending in the next year, however, how much to invest is up for debate as 18% of companies allocate 10% of their budget to content marketing.

The Future of Sales and Marketing (Aka Smarketing)

Sales content is no longer marketing’s sole job. If sales are lagging, proper marketing/sales alignment should be your organization’s first priority. Only when the two departments collaborate can quality content be created for improved customer acquisition, revenue expansion, and lower selling costs through enhanced organizational productivity and efficiency.

Looking for something specific? Check out our blogs on these topics:


Marketing Technique

Ready to talk with the experts in B2B marketing?
Request a free proposal.